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Chroy Changvar Residents File Petition over Satellite City

Pav Suy / Khmer Times Share:
Chea Sophat, a representative of the residents of Chroy Changvar, speaks during a protest at City Hall after submitting petitions to some institutions seeking intervention on a land dispute with OCIC. KT / Chor Sokunthea

Nearly 100 residents from six communities within Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district filed a petition to City Hall, the Canadian Embassy and the World Bank yesterday demanding intervention in a land dispute with the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation (OCIC), which is responsible for constructing a satellite city on the peninsula.
OCIC received a $1.6 billion contract from City Hall in 2011 to develop the nearly 390 hectare project, which is set to be completed in 2026. 
The company belongs to Canadian-Cambodian Pung Khieu Se, who is also the president of Canadia Bank Plc. 
According to Chea Sophat, a representative of the six communities, the project will affect 359 families and about 185 hectares of land that they claim to have occupied for decades.    
Residents say they have ownership documents and have been paying taxes for their plots. 
“We came to submit the petition to three different places to get them to intervene, and pressure the company as well as the City Hall to produce a solution,” Mr. Sophat said, adding that the residents want City Hall to offer them either $400 dollars per square meter in compensation or have 50 percent of their land returned to them. 
The residents also demanded areas and homes that fall within “leopard skin” zones be avoided, and that a proposed road leading to the satellite city be built an additional 50 meters from National Road 6A to minimize the impact on those living in between the two thoroughfares. 
The residents were referring to the much maligned government policy in which small farms and villages that fall within the boundaries of Economic Land Concessions are granted autonomy, acting functionally as ‘spots’.
Currently, affected families have been given the choice by City Hall to either sell their land for $15 per square meter or forfeit all but 10 percent of it. 
World Bank spokesman Bou Saroeun encouraged the protesting residents to reach out to the government when contacted by Khmer Times yesterday.
“Yes, we received their petition,” he wrote via email, but said that the World Bank is not involved in any development work in the Chroy Changvar area and could not comment on the project.
In response to Mr. Saroeun’s comment, Mr. Sophat acknowledged that the development project itself is not related to the World Bank, but there was a probability that Canadia Bank might have some sort of relationship with the organization, hence why the petition was filed with them.
Touch Samnang, project manager at OCIC, told Khmer Times that the continuous protests and petition submissions will not stop the satellite city development. 
“I don’t think their petition submission will hinder the development of the city,” he said, claiming that the demands of the residents fall within the purview of City Hall.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche confirmed that he had received the petition and promised that he would hold a meeting to discuss the residents’ concerns. 
A Canadian Embassy official who requested anonymity said that the Embassy will respond to the petition by next week.
“Currently, the chargé d’affaires is in on vacation, so we need to send the petition to the Ambassador in Bangkok,” the official explained.

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